Friday, November 7, 2008

Italiannies – Pasta, Pizza & Vino @ Garden, Mid Valley City

I never had a good impression with restaurants situated in a shopping complex that offer specialised cuisine like Italian or Spanish, especially with a number of franchises under the belt.

The thoughts of my pasta being cooked by possibly foreign workers who had the recipes implanted in their brains and the evident lack of passion in the dishes usually steer me away from this kind of places.

I suppose someone read my mind well when one fine day (I think), I was invited to swing by Italiannies to try some of their pasta dishes, a case to maybe prove me wrong?

A brilliant case of, is it a Myth or Fact?

Is commercialised Italian food really that inedible or is my taste bud just plain spoilt by the more rich, luxurious and authentic flavours that I have been exposed to?

1. Is it really authentic?

Then again, the question asked is, do they really portray themselves as an authentic Italian restaurant? Or is it because of the name of the restaurant “Italiannies – Pasta, Pizza & Vino” which is rather deceiving?

When the question was indirectly thrown out, there was simply no boasting of being pure 100% Italian. In fact, the menu clearly shows that the emphasis is loosely based on Italian ingredients but adapted to suit the huge Malaysian population palates. After all, it is more profitable to suit just my palate or the millions out there who have only heard of either carbonara or bolognaise, and anything that sounds like vongole or marinara is so foreign that one would think they are ordering an alien to chew on?

In actual fact, Italiannies is an American-Italian restaurant that appeals with the traditional and their originals.

So with the myth that they really serve authentic Italian food thrown out, let us approach the food from another angle.

2. Pricing and value for money

Italiannies have always approached the way it operates with emphasis on value for money. Pasta starts from RM20 odd with huge servings meant for really two. With their latest promotion, you can choose 4 types out of a range of 10 pasta dishes to be served tapas sized for RM29.90. In Italiannies, wine is served either by glass (RM13-RM16) or by “jar” (RM60-RM80).

This versus the usual Italian places I dine with? Lets just say I spend more then that.

Fine, Italiannies is slightly cheaper then because I didn’t order alcohol but a fresh Lime Juice for only RM7.50.

Which tasted kind of good actually.

3. The most important thing; is it any good?

Sad to say, there were many areas that tasted average at best. Then again, don’t forget I have been exposed to the non-halal range cooked by true Italians at heart.

Without the use of the distinct smoky flavours of prosciutto, pancetta or simple pork bacon, you are already at a disadvantage.

Then again to my dear readers who can’t eat pork, this is a pork free place where they can be exposed to the censored version of Italian food.

Credits given to Italiannies though, as there were attempts to localise some of the dishes with the use of some dried chilies and shitake mushrooms. There was also effort to show class in the dishes like the lamb shank and showcasing their versatility by letting you try 4 kinds of cold/hot pasta at one go.

Let us go through each dish we went through and see if we can pick the better looking apples from the bunch.

Freshly baked bread with olive oil and vinegar

Staple ingredient to an Italian dinner and was actually quite nice to start things off.

The Quattro platter

I was once told by an Italian chef, that Italians loved sharing and he aimed to do the same when I asked him to do a menu for us. Generous serves in an assorted platter is nothing but the norm in a typical Italian Sunday Brunch.

Italiannies have come up with a version that serves fried Calamari that tasted very decent, pizza dough balls with a cheese filling and some tempura zucchini and onion shreds. In the middle, the power gorgonzola cheese and the tomato based dip was generously served as a compliment.

The Californian Shrimp Salad

The salad was refreshing with the mango and orange slices and the light cream cheese crumbles. The prawns though, I would have prefer bigger ones to give the dish a good bite to it; even substantial for some as a main. Although not necessary true Italian, it was a salad that I enjoyed especially on a day when you are supposed to “detox”.

The Italiannies Lamb Shank

The sauce was good albeit on the salty side. The mash potato was beautifully flavoured too. Unfortunately when it came to the shank itself, it was hard to carve the meat out. Another two hours or so braising will probably do it better than bad. I have faith that they will fine tune this dish by the time it hits the market.

Did you know that the food are tried and tested among the staff, everyday till it is perfected? I suppose again, another attempt to produce something that will appeal to the public (I suppose by now, I am really the minority).

Finally for the pasta, the ones that I have been waiting for, the whole range that you can choose from then customise which ones you want according to what you like, and voila served unlike stubborn Italian chefs who would only ask you to eat what they serve (just joking).

Back left: Angel Hair Pomodoro – angel hair pasta with chopped red tomatoes and sautéed with garlic in a light tomato basil sauce. Although on the sweet side, it was excellent to start off with, just for the sugar rush to kick in so you can finish the rest.

Back right: Salmon & Lemon Aioli – baked salmon flakes tossed with chilled lemon aioli mayonnaise and baby spinach over shell pasta. One of their cold pasta dish that you can eat like a salad, something new and nothing like the Italian pasta I am used to (not that it is a bad thing, of course)

Front left: Chicken and Mushroom – Shitake mushrooms sautéed with chili chicken tossed with cherry tomatoes & rocket lettuce served with spaghetti. This is a clear example of adapting Italian food to suit our local taste buds. While I didn’t enjoy this much, I saw others having a fun time slurping up the noodles like chili pan mee.

Front right: Chicken Lasagna – Layers of lasagna pasta, creamy cheese sauce, marinara sauce with melted mozzarella cheese and baked until golden brown. One of my favourite dishes as a kid, I can only imagine me order all four serves of this, now? I wouldn’t mind actually.

Back left: Fussili Pesto and Mushroom – Pan seared shiitake mushrooms served with chilled fussili basil pesto pasta. A cold vs. hot pasta (confused?), I loved the fresh but rather earthy mushrooms.

Back right: Classic carbonara – Fettuccine pasta tossed in light parmesan cream sauce with smoked beef bacon and fresh button mushrooms. At first taste, it was rather alright (then again, the non-halal versions are always the best) but from a taste bud of my halal friend, this is apparently a hot recommendation.

Front left: Clams & Beef Bacon – Beef bacon strips sautéed with fresh clams, onions & clam broth served with fettuccine. More commonly known as vongole, the broth was seafood sweet and tasted again rather edible.

Front right: Shrimp linguine – linguine pasta with sautéed shrimp and served with marinara sauce. The shrimp tails had a good bite to it despite the size and the thick tomato paste was a delight to perk you up for desserts.

Chili Shrimp – lightly sautéed shrimp with dried chilies and garlic over linguine. Again the shrimp was addictive and the use of dried chilies was a familiar flavour as it is used in Chinese cuisine. A good dish to order for your more traditional elderly who rather have their staple diet day in and day out.

For desserts we were served a very rich chocolate and hazelnut cake with a tinge of orange peel and a NY strawberry cheesecake.

The chocolate cake while it had a rather powdery texture, was very rich and when you suffer one of those days where all you want to do is eat chocolates, this dish is for you.

The cheesecake is light and fluffy and combined with the strawberry jam, is totally opposite of the chocolate cake. Very easy to finish on your own despite the huge portion.

Address and contact details:

Italiannies, The Gardens

Second Floor, The Gardens, Mid Valley City

Tel: 03-22833675

(Pork free)

Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. There are many areas that I am not convinced because there were no outstanding dishes but being a jack of all trades, there were plentiful of choices and everything was rather edible especially for a quick bite in the shopping mall. Once you get over the fact that this is not your true Italian cuisine but something that wants to make a lot of people happy, you can wear a tiny smile like the many others as you dig into the 4 kinds of pasta that you feel like eating. Did I mention that you can seat in the Godfather’s table as well?

To throw in a bonus; here are more artistic pictures of the pasta promotion:


jason said...

The usual day when I would hop over to Italiannies is birthday celebration.

zewt said...

how did u get the customised pasta plate? and judging by the amount of food you have there... looks like a private invite.

eh, the 4 seasons in london much better ler ;P

AnGeLiC PrInCeSs SeReNa said...

Joeboy! First things first, congrats on the paid offer. =)

Pictures are just as delicious as ever! Though you have to keep an eye out for your spelling and stuff. *winks*

Btw, I'm keen to try that four pasta combo thing... didn't know they have them!

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

i'm addicted to the foodie blogs from malaysia and around the world recently and simply adore ur blog amongst others! the food pics just make me want to take the next plane back to malaysia n cos i can't drool for now..hehe, will be visiting often from now, keep up the blog!

mh said...

hahaha..gosh, I wonder what the kitchen boys will feel like if you were to supervise the kitchen for the day...Just imagine you dishing out those comments right at their face!!

But honestly, their food are never impressive, though I do love their calamari...after numerous dinners and functions at Italiannies, I'll only go their for their dessert...their bread & butter pudding is pretty decent (felt like homemake), was pretty happy with the strawberry cheesecake...and the tiramisu was better than say, the likes of Secret Recipe (which serve really crap Tiramisu).

Conclusion : I go there for tea..and order only dessert, and maybe calamari..

Henry Yeo said...

gives me one (pack of) excuse(s) to avoid this place.

How's gymming? I am to sore to walk any further.

Bangsar-bAbE said...

I was there for dinner a few days back. Wasn't impressed with the food (nor the service) as everything was too "thrown together".

And one could easily tell that the kitchen crew and wait staffs were "green".

Christy said...

I have the same impression of these food outlets like you too, and I've heard so much about Italiannes (not the good ones, but the bad ones) that I didn't go in for once.

I don't think even Al Pacino can attract their customers hor? Judging from your rating:p

550ml jar of faith said...

I've been hoodwinked into Italiannies a few times, and each time I come out feeling more deflated than the last. I'm not sure your post changes anything, but nice pics though!

Life for Beginners said...

I like the idea of pasta as tapas... rather inventive, really. Also, I guess it helps a lot in promoting their pasta dishes... ;)

fatboybakes said...

i have to say the pics are gorgeous, regardless of the taste. that's half the battle won. you were paid to do is ah? (referring to comment about paid offer)

J2Kfm said...

the price is affordable, at least.

and their pasta/pizza beats most of the chains of "Italian/Western/Everything in between" restaurants in shopping complexes, no?

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

j2fkm: affordable? err not really also la..on par yes..

fbb: yes i was paid..that shall be a later post..nice pics hor? some were used with a flash..(argh, need to earn more money for flash)

lob: give them credit for being creative and taking advantage of human greed..

550ml: thanks for the compliment..well i suppose this article is awareness better then anything..

christy: try it once la..u nvr knw..

bangsar babe: wat to do..its everywhere..all hiring foreigners who know nuts..

henry: take a rest dude..too much exercise is no good either..

mh: like ur conclusion..

hcpen: come back as often as u like!

serena: this was done on ms word wor..where got mistakes?? haha or u refering to the Z and the S..i prefer the S over the Z..

zewt: its on a promotion..choose 4 for rm29.90..yeah the london version is heaps better..

jason: so they do a good birthday celebration?

- m i c h e l l e - said...

I came here with a uber hungry tummy, and I regretted instantly after I scroll through pictures after pictures. They look really good, especially the strawberry cheesecake!

worldwindows said...

Good critical article! Expansive. Always passed by Italiannies but have not ventured in as yet.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

michelle: hahah dun say read..when i process food pics after dinner..i also get hungry!

worldwindows: haha thanks..

Jun said...

damn powderful lar u, an outing to an italian restaurant oso can turn into a food analysis.

can write thesis on it edi -__-

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

jun:*correction* - american-italian restaurant ahaha...macam thesis ar? like tat i go take PHD FOOD REVIEWS!

ling239 said...

i like the option of 4 choices!!

why no tiramisu leh ? >.<"

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

ling239: not new on the menu lor i guess..

Simon Seow said...

We didn't get to eat the strawberry cheese cake. Why? Why?

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

simon: hahah dunno wor

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